Changes to payment rules for caregivers: this is what is planned

The federal government has announced changes that will provide more flexibility to people who care for a person with a disability or serious medical condition, allowing them more freedom to determine the time they spend working and studying while maintaining their Carer’s Payment.

The Carer Payment is an income support payment, paid at the same level as the age pension, which aims to counteract the barriers carers face when it comes to work commitments.

How is Caregiver Payment changing?

Currently, people receiving the payment are limited to fewer than 25 hours of work, study or volunteer activities each week. Under new changes to be announced in the 2024-25 budget, they will be allowed to work up to 100 hours during a four-week settlement period, allowing for greater variability in the time they spend at work from one week to the next. following.

“Under these changes, carers will have greater ability to flexibly manage their work commitments in a way that meets their needs and those of the person they care for,” Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said in a statement. announcing the changes.
“We know many carers, but particularly carers of people with mental health problems, often find that care requirements can be fluctuating or episodic and that can make working or studying regularly a challenge.”

Education and volunteer activities will also be removed from the participation limit, in an attempt to “support caregivers in developing skills that can promote participation in the workforce,” according to a fact sheet published by the Department of Social Services.

While carers who exceed their participation hour limit under the current rules risk having their Carer Payment cancelled, they will instead have their payments suspended for up to six months under the new rules, meaning They will not need to reapply to access income support if their circumstances change.

What are the caregiver payment rates?

Payments to carers are made at the highest rate in recognition of the severity of the challenges carers face.

The current maximum base rate for people on a Carer’s Payment is $1,020.60 per fortnight. Those who are part of a couple are entitled to a maximum basic rate of $769.30 each per fortnight, while those who are separated for health reasons are entitled to a maximum basic rate of $1,116.30 per fortnight.

About 71 per cent of Carer Payment recipients are women and about 7 per cent identify as First Nations.
“We are committed to supporting Australia’s 2.65 million carers and ensuring that if they want to work, study or volunteer, they can do so more easily and flexibly,” the Department of Social Services said in its statement.
“We know that carers often work fewer hours than they would like, and underemployment is much more common among unpaid carers than the general population. Progressing in education or training can also be difficult.”

The changes, which are estimated to cost $18.6 million over five years, will begin in 2025, subject to the passage of legislation.